NCAA Tournament Memories

Before ever making it to the WNBA, many current players once starred on a different basketball stage. For them, the NCAA Tournament holds a special place in their hearts. Even now, they remain fans of the college game. They watch the Tournament and track the players who might someday be their teammates and opponents in the WNBA. Whether they were first discovered by the national media, overcame adversity, or even won National Championship, several of these players share their Tournament thoughts, feelings and special memories.

Ruth Riley – University of Notre Dame, Class of 2001
"It’s great. There is so much excitement surrounding the Final Four and women’s basketball on the collegiate level. It shows just how far women’s collegiate athletics has come. It’s fun to be a part of that. It seems like it was some time ago, but when I go back to Notre Dame, it doesn’t seem like that long ago."
Favorite Moment: "It was very exciting to make it to the Final Four in 2001. A lot of players don’t get that opportunity. For us, as seniors, to go out on top, that was the best way to end my collegiate career."

Kara Lawson – University of Tennessee, Class of 2003
"It’s special. To play in the Final Four and to have the opportunity to share that with your teammates, your family and friends, it’s really special. I love the NCAA Tournament because it’s do-or-die. Any team on any given night has the opportunity to win. But what makes it so tough is to win six single-elimination games, a format that is so unique in sports. In professional sports, there are series, so you have mulligans, the opportunity to have a bad game and still win the series, but you don’t get that in the Tournament. It is really fun and I’m excited to watch it this year and hopefully my old teammates will get it done."
Favorite Moment: 2003: "If I could pick one moment, it was that Gwen Jackson and I got to play our last game in our arena to advance to the Final Four. It was pretty neat to cut down the nets to go to the Final Four on your own home court, the court you played on for four years. That was probably my favorite."

Becky Hammon – Colorado State University, Class of 1999
Favorite Moment: "Getting Colorado State to the Sweet 16 had been a goal of ours ever since we were freshmen. When I first got there, we had hardly ever had a winning season. We had never won a conference championship, we hadn’t done anything. We had a great class, and by the time we were seniors, we were selling out our arena, going to the NCAA tournament. It was an amazing experience. We sold out a 9000-seat arena for the last half of our season which was awesome. When you talk about something that has never been done at a school before, it is always special to be a part of the first group to accomplish it. There can only be one first time and that’s how it was, and there may never be another group like that at CSU, just because it has been done before now. The pioneers… but now I hope they can get the program back on track and find its winning ways again, crack that Top 25, make runs in the NCAA tournament."

Swin Cash – University of Connecticut, Class of 2002
"Everyone should go to college and experience the NCAA Tournament because it’s one of the greatest things that you can participate in. It definitely prepares you for the next level, especially the crowd, the atmosphere and just the excitement of it all. I would never have traded my college years to turn pro earlier because it was so much fun at the Final Four with my friends and family. It was something that I will have memories about for a long time. I miss my college experience, but I understand that with growth comes movement and that means moving on and taking on new phases of my life. I’m not sad about it but I do think about it sometimes."
Favorite Moment: "2002 doesn’t seem like that long ago. Anytime you win a Championship, it sticks in your head for a long time."

Tamika Catchings – University of Tennessee, Class of 2001
Favorite Moment: "The Regional Finals in 2001. It was such a weird experience. I got hurt early, but I knew I wasn’t out for the game. When it comes to basketball, playing in big games, no matter what happens, I’m going to try and get back. It would have had to be that something was broken, but even then I might still have tried to tape it up and go out there. I hate losing, so going down in that game, I could kind of hear what was going on in the background and the crowd, thinking to myself and telling the trainer that I had to get back out there. Nothing was going to keep me out of this game. Being on the court for me is like a safe-zone. Anything goes and it’s just so much fun."

Cynthia Cooper – University of Southern California, Class of 1986
"The Tournament has definitely changed since I’ve been there. The attention that the Final Four gets now is tremendous. Sold-out games, the crowds are great, and all of the intensity of the game itself is on a totally different level than when I played. It shows how women’s basketball and its fan base is growing, and I enjoy being around it. That atmosphere is tremendous and it’s definitely something you want to be a part of all the time whether you’re playing or just a fan coming to see it."
Favorite Moment: "Our first championship. I hit the shot that put us in the lead over Louisiana Tech and then I took a charge. Now you have to know that I am not a defensive specialist, but I took a charge that helped us win the game. That is my favorite NCAA moment, though that was a long time ago. I am old."

Lindsay Whalen – University of Minnesota, Class of 2004
"My favorite NCAA Tournament memory was going to the Final Four last year. Beating Duke to win the regional, the whole celebration afterwards was great. It was crazy. That whole night was great. Everyone was excited and hyped up. A lot of fun."

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